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05/27/2015 03:06 pm ET Updated May 27, 2015

After Outcry, Clemson Football Coach Dabo Swinney Says No To 'Anti-LGBT' Group Fundraiser

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After protests over Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney's scheduled attendance at an event for a conservative group that opposes gay marriage, Swinney said Wednesday he is not taking part.

"After much thought, in order to avoid a distraction for the team and the entire football program, I've decided it is in the best interests of all involved that I not attend the event on June 2," he told The Huffington Post in a statement.

Earlier, GLAAD had joined a Clemson student petition in calling for Swinney to withdraw from an event hosted by the Palmetto Family Council.

Swinney was scheduled to be honored June 2 at a fundraiser in Columbia, South Carolina, by the council, which says its "vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by promoting the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model, and sexual purity."

GLAAD Vice President of Programs Zeke Stokes said in a statement: "Coach Swinney has an obligation to the players he leads and all students who attend Clemson to use his considerable profile to promote causes that bring us together, not tear us apart. The Palmetto Family Council's values are out of line with the values of love and acceptance for all people, and I hope the Coach will reconsider the message that his alignment with them sends."

Earlier, LGBT supporters, led by student William Ta'oma, launched a Change.org petition calling for Swinney to reconsider the invitation: "As a prominent representative of the University, Dabo Swinney's appearance and fundraising for the Palmetto Family Council will serve to promote these ideas and actions which harm the mission and goals of the University and the interests of the student body."

Swinney said he understood that he was being feted for his All-In Foundation charity and emphasized that he had no affiliation with the organization.

"My scheduled participation in this event has been perceived incorrectly as an endorsement of certain viewpoints and has entered the political arena," he said. "I have been out of town since last Thursday and am disappointed that this has become a distraction for me, my team and many others. I have been and continue to be very open about my personal beliefs. However, I do not inject those beliefs or the work of the foundation into the political process." (See Swinney's full statement at the bottom of the article.)

Swinney's invitation drove at least one politician to join the cause to make him reconsider. The top Democrat in the South Carolina House, Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, told The State, “I cannot fathom why Coach Swinney or anyone else would knowingly assist a group whose mission is to fight against equal rights and equal treatment of others.”

But Palmetto Family Council President Oran Smith explained to the paper that Swinney was being honored for his Christian beliefs and "should be free to speak where he would like to.”

Swinney has been accused of fostering an overtly Christian environment in a public university, but answered his critics, "When we get out on the football field, it's not about if you're a Christian, it's about who's the best player."

Here's Swinney's full statement:

I was recently selected by the Palmetto Family Council, an organization with which I have no association, as their “South Carolina Family Champion of 2015” and was invited to receive this recognition at an event sponsored by the group on June 2. I had no idea that I was being invited into a political controversy. It was my understanding that the nomination and selection for this award was based on the work done by our All In Foundation and the difference it is making in our community. My acceptance of this award was to be on behalf of all the volunteers that make our foundation a success. The work of our foundation is intended to build a better community and be a positive influence.

Recently, my scheduled participation in this event has been perceived incorrectly as an endorsement of certain viewpoints and has entered the political arena. I have been out of town since last Thursday and am disappointed that this has become a distraction for me, my team and many others. I have been and continue to be very open about my personal beliefs. However, I do not inject those beliefs or the work of the foundation into the political process.

I appreciate the recognition of my and the foundation's efforts. However, after much thought, in order to avoid a distraction for the team and the entire football program, I've decided it is in the best interests of all involved that I not attend the event on June 2.

HuffPost

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